The CW's Superman & Lois has made some Top 10 shows of 2021 lists because it's a surprisingly deep and nuanced look at The Man of Steel by finding a new angle: how does he cope with being a husband and father. The show also focuses on the female perspective more than any version of the Superman story ever did. There's one scene that is unexpectedly rich and multilayered that actually sums up Superman and this show.
In the 10th episode of Superman & Lois, "O Mother, Where Art Thou?", Superman meets his birth mother Lara Zor-El for the first time. The comics and movies had always emphasized his relationship with his fathers Zor-El and Jonathan Kent and neglected his relationship with his mothers. The show focuses more on the women in his life than ever before on top of his struggles with being a father to twin boys.
In a pivotal scene, Superman has captured a device called the Eradicator that Lara Zor-El created to house the psyches of all the Kryptonians who died when Krypton was destroyed. Lana Lang (Emmanuel Chiquiri) agrees to temporarily host the psyche of Lara Zor-El so he can speak to her and find out Morgan Edge's plans. Lana volunteered after discussing it with Lois (Elizabeth Tulloch). Thus, Superman (Tyler Hoechlin) gets to speak to his birth mother for the first time in his life in the body of the first woman he ever loved, watched by his wife who is the love of his life.
The heart of the scene is Superman's longing for his mother – both of them. Martha had died but her presence hangs in the scene. Lara expresses her fears that he might have been alone but sees that the world welcomed him. Superman tells her, "I had a mother. Her name was Martha. She loved me very much." Hoechlin plays Superman here with a quiet stillness, letting his eyes convey all the joy, sadness, and longing of an orphan who meets his birth mother for the first time and honours his adopted mother at the same time. This scene encapsulates how Superman & Lois is about the women in his life. It is possibly the most complex and moving scene of all the CW-DC shows.
For all the special effects and action throughout the season of Superman & Lois, this scene was shot very simply, mostly In close-up intercutting between Hoechlin and Chiquiri, but it became the most emotionally and thematically charged in the entire season. Their acting is restrained with their emotions churning away underneath. It takes an entire writer's room to work out all the layers and complexity of a scene like this: a mother meeting her grown son for the first time through a Science Fiction lens. The scene is about the four women – his two mothers are dead and are in this scene as ghosts – whose love made Superman the man he is. Superman & Lois is streaming on HBO Max and The CW.